Greece’s military build-up in the Aegean – a blow to international law

The prevailing opinion among regional experts is that Greece’s military tactics in the disputed islands are an attempt to alter the regional balance and spark a new conflict with its neighbor Türkiye.

Ankara has lodged a protest with the United States and Greece against what it calls a flagrant violation of international treaties by Athens as it deployed armored vehicles on the islands of Midilli (Lesbos) and Sisam (Samos).

Greece’s militarization of the Aegean islands, which constitutes a flagrant violation of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty and the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, threatens to aggravate the situation in the region and put it at risk -false with its neighbor Turkey.

It was Turkish army drones that first recorded and reported military activities from part of Greece on the islands – not too far from the Turkish coast. Following which, Ankara summoned the Greek ambassador, calling for an end to the violations of international law and the restoration of the non-military status of the islands in question.

In its protest against the United States, the Turkish administration called for the status of the Eastern Aegean to be respected and for measures to be taken to prevent the use of American weapons on the islands.

“It’s very clear if you look at the 1947 Treaty of Paris, it’s very clear that these islands must be and must remain demilitarized,” said Mehmet Ugur Ekinci, a foreign policy researcher at SETA. TRT world
Strait Talk in late June when new visual evidence of Greece’s illicit military activities surfaced on social media.

“Thus, Türkiye suspects that Greece is preparing the ground to unilaterally alter the balance of the Aegean Sea in its favor in the future. This can happen when international balances can give them a voice and support them.

Ekinci said Türkiye perceived the militarization of the islands as a security threat. “It is important to have confidence in neighborly relations. While having such a clear clause in a treaty and not complying with that clause creates trust issues.

International treaties

The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne mandated that the islands of Thasos, Samotraki, Lemnos, Aya Evstratios, Lesbos, Chios, Psara, Samos and Ikaria remain under Greek sovereignty, but on the condition that they maintain a non-military status. .

In another agreement, 24 years later, the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty handed over the islands of Patmos, Lipsi, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, Nisyros, Astypalaia, Tilos, Chalki, Karpathos, Kassos, Symi, Rhodes and Meis in Athens – again the condition that they remain demilitarized.

The key condition for the islands to have a non-military status was set to accommodate Türkiye’s security concerns. For example, the proximity of some of the eastern Aegean islands to mainland Turkey is worth noting.

Meis Island is located just 2.1 kilometers off the Kas region of Turkey, while its distance from mainland Greece is around 600 kilometers. It also made headlines two years ago, when World TRT captured the movement of Greek troops on the island through a zoom telephoto lens.

The island of Meis is not the only one that can be observed in geographical proximity to the Aegean coasts of Türkiye, as it is the same for some large islands such as Lesbos, Samos and Chios at varying distances of up to 10 kilometers from the Turkish mainland.

The fact that these islands are very close to the Turkish mainland was the main reason for adopting their non-military status as they could pose a potential threat to Ankara’s security.

— Elif Cansin Senol/TRT World (TRTWorld)

Historical context

The eastern Aegean islands stretching from Thasos to Ikaria were occupied by Greece during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13.

In accordance with the 1913 Treaty of London signed after the First Balkan War, the islands of Thasos, Aya Evstratios, Psara, Samotraki and Lemnos were given to Greece by decision of the “Six States”: Austria-Hungary, England, France, Russia, Italy and Germany.

Part of the agreement guaranteed guarantees to Türkiye regarding the demilitarization and non-military status of the islands. Under Article 12 of the Treaty of Lausanne, the 1914 decision of the six powers was confirmed.

The Treaty of Lausanne also noted that the Greek government would not be able to establish a naval base or fortification on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, and Ikaria.

The Paris Peace Treaty mentioned the non-military status of the Dodecanese Islands, further emphasizing that no military bases or fortifications could be built on the islands, no military exercises could be carried out, and no air, naval or land vehicles could could be deployed there. .

Both agreements authorize the deployment of a limited number of law enforcement units on the islands. Thus, under the explicit provisions of the treaties to which Athens is a party, Greece has no right to arm the islands of the eastern Aegean.

However, Greece has been militarizing the islands since at least 1960, in violation of treaties. In total, Türkiye claims that Athens has militarized 16 of the eastern Aegean islands.

Turkish response

The latest militarization of the islands is just another illegal attempt by Athens in recent months to escalate tensions with neighbor Ankara in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that Turkey knows very well the intentions of those who provoke Greece.

“Weapons accumulated in Western Thrace and on the islands mean nothing to us because our power far exceeds them, but we remind you that this means secret occupation,” he said.

Turkey does not want the Aegean and Mediterranean seas “to be polluted with human blood, tears or hostility”, Erdogan said. “We want peace and quiet with all our hearts.”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies